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Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Bible: Source for the writing of the Constitution

The Bible is not only the most published book in history, it is quoted by major sources continually. Many of our early statesmen regarded the Bible highly. The Bible was a major sourcebook for the writing of our Constitution. In The Origins of American Constitutionalism by Donald Lutz, Lutz and colleague Charles Hynman (both Political Science researchers from the University of Houston) summarize their analysis of 15,000 items of American political commentary published between 1760 and 1805. They demonstrated that the Bible was the most frequently quoted source between 1760 and 1805, and concluded that future research on the development of American political thought should include increased attention to "biblical and common law sources"

Quotes concerning the moral authority of the Bible as pertinent to our nation.

"A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district - all studied and appreciated as they merit - are the principle support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty." Benjamin Franklin

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.
It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." George Washington

"The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests." Andrew Jackson

"If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering." Daniel Webster

"The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scripture ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evil men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." Noah Webster

"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education." Theodore Roosevelt

The Bible is considered to be accurate and of historical value

Nelson Glueck, a specialist in ancient literature, said: "It can be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference."

Bible scholar Donald J. Wiseman said, "The geography of Bible lands and visible remains of antiquity were gradually recorded until today more than 25,000 sites within this region and dating to Old Testament times, in their broadest sense, have been located...." (25,000 sites!)

Well-known Bible scholar William F. Albright said: "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition of the value of the Bible as a source of history." Archeological studies have been a true friend to the Christian Bible.

Menahem Mansoor, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says: "Biblical archaeology's greatest significance is that it has corroborated many historical records in the Bible."

From a statement by the Smithsonian Institute: "In short, it is impossible to verify the actual events recorded in the Biblical account of the flood. On the other hand, much of the Bible, in particular the historical books of the old testament, are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories. These Biblical records can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archeological work. For the most part, historical events described took place and the peoples cited really existed."

Other quotes of note

"The Bible is literature, not dogma." George Santayana

"The Bible has been the Magna Carta of the poor and of the oppressed." Thomas H. Huxley

"The English Bible - a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power." Thomas B. Macaulay

"In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength." Robert E. Lee

Friday, September 29, 2006

Getting a Farrakhan shake...

I am pleased to present the words of a guest blogger who only wishes to be identified as "Radar's Better Half." (identified henceforth as RBH.) I do have the option of inserting comments as I may be inspired. Here is her story:

"My date for jury duty had arrived, I had come prepared to sit and wait. I brought my crochet piece to work on. I was one of the last to arrive, a bit stressed because the road I was supposed to take was not marked so I missed it and had to turn around and got caught by a train..."

I would like to add that my directions were impeccable, however, the City of Hammond has not done a good job of marking streets. RBH was to have turned left at 165th street, which is a major intersection but it seems that if you don't live in Hammond you have a real good chance of being lost. Unless, of course, you can psychically determine street names by the power of your mind. In addition, there are train tracks that run through Hammond that are often the home of a sitting train for long periods of time. Why don't the trains sit in the railyards where they belong? No one knows and considering how much the local government has done to correct this behavior, no one in authority cares, either!

"...I rushed into a room full of people all sitting silently with an air of solemnity. I quickly found a seat, settled in and began to crochet trying to calm myself down. A young woman entered the room and went over the information we had on our hand-out sheets; about payment for our service and mileage and notice to employers and all that. Then she encouraged us to help ourselves to the coffee and doughnuts, and invited those who wanted to have a smoke to join her outside. People then began to move around and to speak. I found that I was sitting next to a woman who had recently moved into my neighborhood. If we both got chosen for this trial we could ride together..."

This is highly unusual, since we live in a new, small subdivision and it is at least seventeen miles from the Federal courthouse.

"...Soon a baldheaded man came in and told us to finish up our food and go to the washroom if we needed to because we would be sitting in the courtroom for about an hour. When everyone was ready he led us to the elevators and to the courtroom where we were seated on long wooden pews. The courtroom was just what I expected it to be like, like courtrooms I have seen in many TV shows. In front of the pews to my right the long table and chairs for the plaintiffs and their lawyers and to their right the defendant’s table back to the wall so that it was facing the jury chairs to my left.

The judge explained the case to us and we all took an oath to tell the truth, to tell the truth about any kind of bias or prejudice we may have about the people involved or the situation for the law suit.

The case was a civil case about an automobile accident. The defendant had already pled guilty in the criminal case for causing the accident and driving with a suspended license. But the plaintiffs were suing to recover the ongoing medical costs and pain and suffering caused by the accident.

The plaintiffs were a retired couple from Gary IN who were traveling east on the Indiana Toll way to spend Mother’s Day with their daughter and grandchildren. It was 7am on Mother’s Day. The traffic was light. The defendant was traveling from Chicago to a family gathering in New Buffalo. The plaintiffs said the defendant came up behind them with his big Hummer and hit them twice and drove them off the road causing them injuries and wrecking their Honda Accord. The defendant said that he fell asleep and doesn’t remember hitting them. That is all the information we were told about the case..."


So far I could see that I would have to make an effort to be fair about this case were it me on the panel. It sounds unlikely that one would fall asleep and snooze through TWO IMPACTS between motor vehicles. I have been the unhappy recipient of an automobile impact while in another automobile and I will say that it would be rather hard to ignore and certainly to sleep through...unless one was, say, 'dead' drunk at the time. But that's just me...

"...The defendant’s last name was Farrakhan. I thought maybe there might be some other Farrakhan family and he wasn’t related to cult leader Louis Farrakhan. Fourteen names were called to take their seat in the jury chairs. I and the woman from my neighborhood were not called. Each of those who were called was interviewed to see if they had any knowledge of this case or knew any of the participants or potential witnesses. One of the witnesses that might be called in to testify was indeed Louis Farrakhan, the defendant’s father.

Unbelievably, only three of the fourteen people in the jury chairs knew who Louis Farrakhan was, these people must have been living under a rock for the last fifteen years or they’re liars! They all said that they would have no problem judging the case fairly after they heard all the evidence; I thought to myself that I could too..."


Again, I believe RBH. If she says she could be impartial I am sure she could. Me, I cannot tolerate racists like David Dukes or Louis Farrakhan.

"...A few people were dismissed and more of us called up. My neighbor was called up and then they went into another room and the rest of us took a break. I was kind of hoping I would be called; it would be interesting to have to tell the truth in front of the whole court if they asked me what I thought about Louis Farrakhan.

What if I said; “I know of Louis Farrakhan, the defendant’s father. I know that he is the leader of the Nation of Islam cult. A cult that has led many people astray, filling them full of lies and hate; hatred of white people, hatred of Jewish people and the mixing of races together; yes, I have an opinion of the defendant’s father that is not positive.” I’m sure that if I said that I would have been dismissed from the jury.

They picked nine of the fourteen; my neighbor was not among them. I guess I'll just read about it in the papers..."
~~~~~~~

Well, we can all read about it in the papers now: Farrakhan's son ordered to pay Gary couple $814,399

The Associated Press

Published September 28, 2006, 10:38 AM CDT

HAMMOND, Ind. -- A federal jury has ordered the son of Minister Louis Farrakhan to pay a Gary couple $814,399 for causing a rear-end collision on the Indiana Toll Road three years ago that left a woman with chronic back and neck pain.

Nasir Farrakhan said he had accepted responsibility for causing the crash, but refused to pay the medical bills of Gladys Peterson because he contended her neck and back pain existed well before the crash.

The jury on Wednesday ordered Farrakhan to pay Gladys Peterson $448,838 in compensatory damages and her husband, Charles, $15,561, in compensatory damages. They also ordered $350,000 in punitive damages.

"The jury was not going to tolerate that kind of behavior, no matter who it is," said Michael Back, the attorney for the Petersons. "It was a loud and clear message."

The Associated Press left a message seeking comment for Farrakhan's attorney, Shelice R. Tolbert, at her Crown Point office.

Nasir Farrakhan did not take the stand during the trial and did not comment afterward.

Farrakhan had already pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal recklessness in criminal court two years ago and had served 15 days of community service and paid a fine of less than $200.

The Hummer that Nasir Farrakhan was driving was registered to his father. Nasir Farrakhan left the scene and was arrested a short time later on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. His driver's license had been revoked in 2001.

Although prescription drugs and drug paraphernalia were recovered from the Hummer, Nasir Farrakhan said he was just tired from a party in Chicago the night before.

Louis Farrakhan told followers in a letter earlier this month that he is seriously ill, and he asked the Nation of Islam's leaders to carry on in his absence.

~~~~~~~


The bold highlights are mine - There is plenty of corruption amongst Lake County, Indiana officials so it is no surprise that in criminal court young Mr. Farrakhan got a wrist-slap for things that for most of us would have meant a forcible change of address to a place with armed guards and iron bars. But it seems some measure of justice has been meted out in the end.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Vote for Mihos! Early and often...

A Funny Spin to Politics.

This is Christy Mihos' Official Web Site, as pointed out to me by Erik, aka EasyE, a fantasy sports player of note. The best video on the site is his commercial entitled, "The Big Dig, Explained." Must see!

If you live in Massechusetts you will see this all over the TV.

Watch the Video "Heads up! The commercial everyone is talking about!" , This has got to be one of the funniest political commercials I have ever seen. This is actually being broadcast all over ABC, NBC & Fox. - Erik


The guy definitely has a sense of humor. Considering the snafu that is the Big Dig and the miserable politicians Massachusetts has produced recently (Kennedy & Kerry are cartoonishly horrific), Mihos is a fresh breath of air. It would be hard not to vote for him, wouldn't it???

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Presidents of the 20th Century - The Road (More) Traveled

Perhaps the most under-appreciated President of the 20th Century was one of the most famous men in the world long before entering politics: Dwight David Eisenhower. The West Point footballer-turned Supreme Allied Commander was famed for planning and overseeing the "D-Day" invasion of Europe which was the beginning of the end for the Axis powers and Hitler in particular. "Ike" was the man who Patton and Bradley and even British Commander Montgomery answered to in the last years of the War in Europe, a man capable of dealing with people like Stalin and DeGaulle without Presidential oversight.

Wikepedia's lead paragraph:

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American soldier and politician. During World War II, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with responsibility for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45. In 1949 he became the first supreme commander of NATO. As a Republican, he was elected the 34th President of the United States (1953–1961). As president he ended the Korean War, kept up the pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, reoriented the defense budget toward nuclear weapons, launched the space race, enlarged the Social Security program, and built the interstate highway system.

Plenty of things happened on Ike's two-term watch. Two states entered the Union (Alaska and Hawaii). The Space Program was launched. The Korean War was ended. Ike also tried to streamline government, forming Health, Eductation and Welfare to bring together several agencies. Ike had a broad vision for the country, running on a platform that rejected isolationism and a moderate Republican agenda that continued, to some extent, the social programs of Truman:

In domestic policy the President pursued a middle course, continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs, emphasizing a balanced budget. As desegregation of schools began, he sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to assure compliance with the orders of a Federal court; he also ordered the complete desegregation of the Armed Forces. "There must be no second class citizens in this country," he wrote.

Eisenhower concentrated on maintaining world peace. He watched with pleasure the development of his "atoms for peace" program--the loan of American uranium to "have not" nations for peaceful purposes.


But I believe the great genius of the retired General was the interstate highway system. He realized that to supply and transport armies and equipment from coast to coast required better roads, and also that with the advance of automotive technology that trucks could operate on those same roads to increase the effectiveness of commerce. He was able to convince congress that these roads would also be needed to evacuate cities faced with nuclear attack. In the "bomb shelter days" of the early Cold War, that was a winning strategy. Americans now take for granted these concrete-and-asphalt ribbons of roadway that allow us to travel smoothly and hopefully safely for great distances. In 1950 there were many fewer highways and most of them required multiple stops with only one lane in each direction. Much of the boost to the American economy in the 1950's and 60's was a result of much better roads providing far more efficient and safe travel.

Eisenhower's push to bring an end to racial discrimination is forgotten now. However, Eisenhower supported the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in which segregated ("separate but equal") schools were ruled to be unconstitutional. The very next day he told District of Columbia officials to make Washington a model for the rest of the country in integrating Negro and white public school children. Liberal critics complained Eisenhower was never enthusiastic about civil rights, but in 1957 he did support and sign the first significant civil rights bills since the 1870s, sent soldiers to Little Rock to integrate their schools, and admitted multi-racial Hawaii as a state in 1959.

The Little Rock Central High crisis of 1957 involved state refusal to honor a federal court order to integrate the schools. Eisenhower placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into the all-white school; this incident did not occur without violence. Eisenhower and Arkansas governor Orval Faubus engaged in tense arguments during this tumultous period in history.


His Eisenhower Doctrine established America's determination to fight repression and communist advances overseas if it was in the interests of national defense. His stance was the precursor to the stand JFK would take against Kruschev concerning missiles in Cuba and culminated in Ronald Reagan's bold measures that brought down the Iron Curtain at the end of the 1980's.

We don't think of him as being as bold as Truman or Teddy or Reagan but his quiet strength was just as effective. I like Ike, too, how can I not rate him an 'A?'

Carnival of the Part-Time Poets (September)

Light Up and Live

the world is a haze
fogged up failures waiting to happen
the world is a haze
clouded up chaos ready to unfold
whenever the light inside
becomes the light we hide
in the shadows
of drenching darkness
that breaks in and blacks out
putting in our hearts, doubt
and words in our mouth

the tongue is a fire
brings to a boil inside and I perspire
and all of my anger
evaporates into a steam of hatred
setting off fire alarms around me
and they scream
louder and prouder
and the steam
travels in cold fronts round a fire
burning souls with the world’s desire
smoking up the children
high on hate
a messed up fate

save the light
take out weapons of love and fight
everything is at stake
and more of this I can’t take
let the flicker of a fighting flame
be the flicker that held out till heaven came


~~~~~~~

Pursuing Praxis: Lexophilic indulgence



FOR LEXOPHILES (LOVERS OF WORDS):

A will is a dead giveaway.

A backward poet writes inverse.

A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.

With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I’ll show you a-flat miner.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France resulted in Linoleum Blownapart.

You are stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia : The LAN down under.

He broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

A plateau is a high form of flattery.

The short fortune teller who escaped from prison: a small medium at large.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

Marathon runners with bad shoes suffer the agony of de feet.
—-

Coincidentally, two days ago I learned the word malapropism:

Malapropism: an incorrect usage of a word by substituting a similar-sounding word with different meaning, usually with comic effect.

Shakespeare, among others, was quite adept at this.

~~~~~~~

My Bubble Life

I guess we all still lie now and again...whether white lies... telling partial truths... or just being blatant. Some more than others. One of my friends was just talking to me about how I won't commit to certain things. I usually say ''I'll try'' or "I'll see." I say that b/c I don't want to be a liar and say I'll do something and not do it. Plus I will have let someone down.. and that's not such a great feeling. I do commit to many things though.

What do you feel about lying? When the last time you lied? What's the biggest lie? I really want to know some of the lies people have been caught in. What did you learn.. if anything? (not to get caught?) Keep it real.

The Liar's Creed

I roll past your lips like water

There's no stopping me

The Prince of Darkness is my father

He released me with glee

Now I am here

Seeking itching ears

Spreading my fears

Shedding no tears

I want to be used

Don't mind being abused

As long as my venom is spewed

Hear me out

I'll fill you with hate

Give me your mouth

I'll make you feel great

My untruths will break thee

Shake thee

Overtake thee

Do it NOW and bypass my late fee

In truth, there's no safety

So do you want to live safely?

Or do fun stuff and have good times

I'll give you good lines

To fool your friends

Again and again and again

It's not really such a bad sin

Especially small lies... I call them white

Just do what you might

Everyone lies... right?

My playground is man

My boundary is God

To use me is sin

Not just against men

You want a way out

But I keep getting bigger

To cover me up

Just gives me more vigor

If you want the key

To my demise

Confess me to God

The light I despise

It means life to you

And death to me

Now I am in bondage

While you are free

So watch for the trickery....

I have many up the sleeve

I fooled the perfect people!!

The couple named Adam and Eve

They wouldn't last

I knew it from the start

I even helped tear apart

The Man after God's own heart...

Yeah David!!!

The Giant killer, Mr. Mighty with just one stone

And I'll bet all you I have...

On your lips TODAY I'll find a home...

Just watch!

John 8:44

Monday, September 25, 2006

Poll: FDR or Bill Clinton/Ladies night

By the way, Dave and Smooth are coo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-l!

(If you have to ask, you don't know)

~~~~~~~~

I wonder what my readers think about what kind of grades I am going to give a couple of Democratic Presidents. I will soon be doing posts on both Bill Clinton and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What grade would you give each of them, respectively?

~~~~~~~

Amy believes that there is some connection between Fox News, Muslims, the Pope and Bill Clinton.

"Bill Clinton defended himself on cutting and running in Somalia in 1993, from which Bin Laden became emboldened to plan his future attacks on America. Bin Laden said, “Our people realized more than before that the American soldier is a paper tiger that run[s] in defeat after a few blows.” Clinton said he couldn't have tried to give aid and comfort to the enemy because we didn't know al-Qaeda existed. Fair enough, but this is a classic example of the consequences of being too squeamish to fight those who kill Americans and ending military operations before the objective is met. THAT is the point, Mr. Clinton, and Osama bin Laden has you and the Democrats pegged. It is you who in the World Wars, Vietnam, Somalia and now Iraq are willing to flee at the first sign of American casualty."


Alexandra has a take on the matter as well.


"We can blame Bill Clinton for not being a strong enough leader, to stand up to the military, the FBI and the CIA, who have all too long been a law unto themselves, but we cannot blame him for not trying. He may not have succeeded in killing bin-Laden, but in 'his mind' he did try.

The problem lies in what it is that he "tried" to do? He tried to 'persuade' them, instead of issuing a command as a Commander-In-Chief should, and the President of the U.S. is expected to do. It's the same 'stop or I'll say stop again' appeasement strategy the Democrats have in mind for dealing with the War on Terror, and Clinton's narcissistic display does not help us alleviate those fears."



Oh well, it's ladies night and I am making it three for three with Pam putting in her two cents:

"Chris did not ask him about exactly why Sandy Berger went into the national archives and stole those top secret documents. Everything that he stuffed down his pants were documents relating to these very topics, signed by slick Willie and Berger and the top flight intel guys.
JJ remarks to me;

And poof, the documents are gone, and he couldn’t remember shit (or didn’t have to, with no cross examination based on the documents possible), and the documents were never uncovered. now, presumably when you go home and take off your pants in the evening, for whatever reason, you would notice the blue bowling ball and the brown shoes and the secret documents from the national archive, and take them back the next day and return them, with a red face. but, when they get lost, that sort of suggests that you meant to steal them, to my poor meager intellect.

So, Bill Clinton has every reason in the world to be a paranoid delusion knot head, and suspect all kinds of underhanded skullduggery at every turn, because that is just the way he operated. and still does.

Vince Foster, Rob Brown, Sandy Burger, the Macdougals, …. , he has good reason to suspect people will behave just like him. at least chris wallace hasn’t turned up dead yet. who knows, maybe this will prove so embarrassing and troubling to his psyche that he will have to swallow some 9 mm pills."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Britain - Great no more?

It may be time to remove the "Great" from in front of the "Britain."

Britons want Tony Blair to step down within the next year, members of his own cabinet are resigning, and the British public want to distance themselves from America.

Check out this excerpt:

But it is the latest poll that delivers the most damning indictment of Blair's foreign policy. It found that nearly three quarters (73 percent) of the public believe that "the British government's foreign policy, especially its support for the invasion of Iraq and refusal to demand an immediate ceasefire by Israel in the recent war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, has significantly increased the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain."

Moreover, three fifths (62 percent) agree that "in order to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks on Britain the government should change its foreign policy, in particular by distancing itself from America, being more critical of Israel and declaring a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq."


Britain, once the empire upon which "The sun never sets", later became the last bastion of the free world, when in the late 1930's it was basically Great Britain and their lion of a leader, Winston Churchill, who stood between Hitler/Tojo/Mussolini and world domination. Now they are turning into France-with-daily-baths.

Churchill may have been the finest leader of the 20th century and Margaret Thatcher more or less the equivalent of England's Ronald Reagan. But once Tony Blair steps down, it appears that the political climate in England has gone from confrontation to appeasement.

I fear that if the English go soft and America goes Democrat, we will soon see a replay of the conditions in the 1930's, when despotic countries began to dominate and overtake the weak while the remaining free nations for the most part avoided any conflicts. Then it was Great Britain that held down the fort until the United States belatedly entered the fray of WWII and helped tip the balance in favor of the good guys.

Tony, the free world will miss you. Great Britain, I am afraid we are about to lose you to the cringing appeasers, hoping against hope that if you mollify the terrorists they will go away. They won't.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Presidents of the 20th Century - Ying and Yang (and Yikes!)

Two of our 20th Century Presidents sandwiched the short, unhappy term of Warren G Harding: Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) and Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929). We take a look at these two Presidents in something of a "compare and contrast" essay. Then we will review the term of one additional President at the end.

Both men were known for personal integrity. There was not a hint of scandal around either of them, even though Coolidge was the Vice President to the unfortunate Harding. Beyond this, the contrasts between them are startling:

Wilson Democrat, Coolidge Repubican.

Wilson was a personable man, whose death is attributed to his nationwide campaign to urge voters to support the Versailles Treaty. The long run of speeches and hand-shaking wore him down and led him to suffer a stroke at the end of his second term of office. Chronically ill thereafter, he died in 1924.

Coolidge was famous for his terse manner and few words: Both his dry Yankee wit and his frugality with words became legendary. His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, recounted that a young woman sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party confided to him she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, "You lose." And in 1928, while vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he issued the most famous of his laconic statements, "I do not choose to run for President in 1928." (whitehouse.gov)

Wilson a proponent of the League of Nations, Coolidge dead set against it.

Wilson: Like Roosevelt before him, Woodrow Wilson regarded himself as the personal representative of the people. "No one but the President," he said, "seems to be expected ... to look out for the general interests of the country."

Coolidge: The political genius of President Coolidge, Walter Lippmann pointed out in 1926, was his talent for effectively doing nothing: "This active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country admirably. It suits all the business interests which want to be let alone.... And it suits all those who have become convinced that government in this country has become dangerously complicated and top-heavy...."

Wilson, who was born in 1856, had seen enough of the Civil War to detest warfare and had run, in 1916, as a man who had kept the US out of WWI. Yet by 1917 he realized it was better for the US to join in the fight, thus proving that his better judgement could overcome his personal prejudices. He was a activist President, as whitehouse.gov notes:

Wilson maneuvered through Congress three major pieces of legislation. The first was a lower tariff, the Underwood Act; attached to the measure was a graduated Federal income tax. The passage of the Federal Reserve Act provided the Nation with the more elastic money supply it badly needed. In 1914 antitrust legislation established a Federal Trade Commission to prohibit unfair business practices.

Another burst of legislation followed in 1916. One new law prohibited child labor; another limited railroad workers to an eight-hour day


In contrast, Coolidge is sketched by whitehouse.gov thusly:

As President, Coolidge demonstrated his determination to preserve the old moral and economic precepts amid the material prosperity which many Americans were enjoying. He refused to use Federal economic power to check the growing boom or to ameliorate the depressed condition of agriculture and certain industries. His first message to Congress in December 1923 called for isolation in foreign policy, and for tax cuts, economy, and limited aid to farmers.

Woodrow Wilson, as any President during a time of war, had extraordinary pressures upon him. That he handled such pressure well and could be decisive merits him the grade of 'A'. I would reduce that to an 'A-' for his love of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, ideas doomed to failure.

Calvin Coolidge was not so successful. There is no doubt that his unquestioned integrity was a breath of fresh air after the weak-willed Harding allowed wide-spread fraud both within his administration and in the corporate world to go unchecked. But his laisse-faire attitude towards government failed to deal with problems of rising inflation and bankrupt farmers, an attitude that would cost the country dearly after Coolidge took office.

Coolidge presided over the "Roaring Twenties" a time of prosperity sometimes referred to at the time as the "Coolidge Prosperity." But in fact, it was the wise leadership of predecessors Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson that had far more to do with that prosperity than Coolidge, and it is likely that either of the afortmentioned gentlemen would have taken measures to avoid the oncoming depression by dealing with problems Coolidge chose to ignore.

Upright perhaps, but Coolidge earns a 'D' for his lack of leadership and foresight.

Having addressed Ying and Yang, then we come to Yikes - the unhappy Herbert Hoover (1929-1933). Few Presidents have been as unfairly villified as he.

Hoover was an intelligent man, moral, a fine administrator and a man of personal courage:

He married his Stanford sweetheart, Lou Henry, and they went to China, where he worked for a private corporation as China's leading engineer. In June 1900 the Boxer Rebellion caught the Hoovers in Tientsin. For almost a month the settlement was under heavy fire. While his wife worked in the hospitals, Hoover directed the building of barricades, and once risked his life rescuing Chinese children.

One week before Hoover celebrated his 40th birthday in London, Germany declared war on France, and the American Consul General asked his help in getting stranded tourists home. In six weeks his committee helped 120,000 Americans return to the United States. Next Hoover turned to a far more difficult task, to feed Belgium, which had been overrun by the German army.

After the United States entered the war, President Wilson appointed Hoover head of the Food Administration. He succeeded in cutting consumption of foods needed overseas and avoided rationing at home, yet kept the Allies fed.

After the Armistice, Hoover, a member of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the American Relief Administration, organized shipments of food for starving millions in central Europe. He extended aid to famine-stricken Soviet Russia in 1921. When a critic inquired if he was not thus helping Bolshevism, Hoover retorted, "Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!"


Hoover was a humanitarian, a fine engineer and as mentioned, a fine administrator. Wikipedia says of him:

The President expanded civil service coverage, cancelled private oil leases on government lands and led the way for the prosecution of gangster Al Capone. He appointed a commission which set aside 3 million acres (12,000 km²) of national parks and 2.3 million acres (9,000 km²) of national forests; advocated tax reduction for low-income Americans; doubled the numbers of veteran hospital facilities; negotiated a treaty on St. Lawrence Seaway (which failed in the U.S. Senate); signed an act that made The Star-Spangled Banner the national anthem; wrote a Children's Charter that advocated protection of every child regardless of race or gender; built the San Francisco Bay Bridge; created an antitrust division in the Justice Department; required air mail carriers to improve service; proposed federal loans for urban slum clearances; organized the Federal Bureau of Prisons; reorganized the Bureau of Indian Affairs; proposed a federal Department of Education; advocated fifty-dollar-per-month pensions for Americans over 65; chaired White House conferences on child health, protection, homebuilding and homeownership; and signed the Norris-La Guardia Act that limited judicial intervention in labor disputes.

Hoover's humanitarian and Quaker reputation—along with a Native American vice president—gave special meaning to his Indian policies. He had spent part of his childhood in proximity to Indians in Oklahoma, and his Quaker upbringing influenced his views that Native Americans needed to achieve economic self-sufficiency. As President, he appointed Charles J. Rhoads as commissioner of Indian affairs. Hoover supported Rhoads' commitment to Indian assimilation and sought to minimize the federal role in Indian affairs. His goal was to have Indians acting as individuals (not as tribes) and assume the responsibilities of citizenship which had been granted with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

In the foreign arena, Hoover began formulating what would be known as the Good Neighbor Policy by withdrawing American troops from Nicaragua and Haiti; he also proposed an arms embargo on Latin America and a one-third reduction in the world's naval, which was called the Hoover Plan. The Roosevelt Corollary ceased being part of U.S. foreign policy. He and Secretary of State Henry Stimson outlined the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine that said the United States would not recognize territories gained by force.


Hoover was Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, although it appears that economics was not among his many strengths. Hoover and his cabinet didn't see the Great Depression coming, a depression that was world-wide in scope. He took extraordinary lengths to deal with the Depression as it hit, taking some measures that FDR would expand upon later on. But the general public placed the blame for the Depression on Hoover and he was soundly defeated in the 1932 election.

My view is that the Great Depression was a world-wide phenomenon not limited to the United States and certainly not the fault of any one President. If there is blame to place, it belongs on the shoulders of the weak-willed Harding and the do-nothing Coolidge rather than on Hoover.

I would give him a 'B'. He gets no 'A' because the Great Depression hit on his watch and he was part of previous administrations that helped bring about the conditions that caused it. Hoover reacted quickly and well to the crisis, however, and still deserves a decent and passing grade.

~~~~~~~~

The next President to be scrutinized will be one of the more controversial of all, the only four-term President, one who presided over some of the great crises and triumphs of the 20th century - Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

How do you know when Bill Clinton is lying?

...when his lips are moving, ha ha ha! But seriously, folks. In this latest interview on Fox News Sunday, former President Bill Clinton gets very angry and shakes his finger over the allegations that he didn't go after Osama Bin Laden. I don't know, but the last time we saw Bill so mad is when he was vehemently denying that he had "sex with that woman", the woman being Monica Lewinsky. Who he actually did have sex with. (Seven months after he wagged his finger and sternly told a national audience that he did not have sex with "that woman," the president said during another live television address that he had not been candid because he wanted to protect himself and his family from embarrassment.)

So it makes me think that Bill Clinton is so mad because the allegations are true and this is how he reacts when faced with a truth that is unkind to him in some way. Which is stupid, because the whole Lewinsky thing would have gone away if he had admitted a discretion and this interview will just cause people to look closer at the allegations against him. Which will prove to be true. Even thought Sandy Berger managed to destroy part of the evidence. Does the former President think we are all stupid? We have seen this behavior before...with Bill Clinton, the angrier he gets, the more likely he is lying through his teeth.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Let's NOT boycott Citgo!

If your marriage is like mine (and you are very fortunate if so), then you discuss pretty much everything with your spouse. My wife and I study the Bible together, watch sports and news and educational shows together, talk about just about everything and enjoy it all immensely. We were discussing the proposed Citgo boycott. Now, the reason many are saying we should boycott Citgo is because it is owned by the government of that raving lunatic Hugo Chavez, friend to Jesse Jackson and Danny Glover but certainly an enemy of the United States. I asked my wife what she thought? (Her words in italics)

"No, no, no we shouldn't boycott Citgo, they'll just sell the oil to someone else and it won't hurt them."

"Sure it will hurt them! If they can't sell it to the US, they have to sell it elsewhere for less money.."

"It doesn't matter, they'll still sell it and it won't do any good."

"It will hurt their bottom line..."

"But boycotting Citgo will only hurt the gas stations owners, not Chavez. It won't hurt him at all!"

"Hmm, well, you are right. If we boycott Citgo it will hurt the small business owners here in the States a lot more than Hugo Chavez. It will cost him a little bit of money but it will hurt Americans a lot more. True."

"Yeah, so we shouldn't boycott Citgo."

"I agree, it is a dumb idea to boycott Citgo."

(She adds, yes, if you boycott Citgo and the local stations don't sell as much, he'll get the message, but you will hurt a lot of people on the way. See, that is another reason why I married her. She saw right to the point of the matter, that is, boycotting Citgo is first boycotting all the innocent gas station owners who have nothing to do personally with Hugo Chavez at all. They just want to feed their families. Again, dumb idea, let's not do it!)

Amy Proctor disagrees here.

Big Bang IV - Stephen Hawking and God

Dr Schaefer continued -

Here we take a good look at Stephen Hawking's stated beliefs within his scientific pronouncements, and specifically regarding his views on God.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is probably the most famous living scientist. The tenth anniversary edition of his book, A Brief History of Time, is available in paperback and I strongly recommend it. The book has sold in excess of 10 million copies. For such a book to sell so many copies is essentially unheard of in the history of science writing. For the past five years I have used A Brief History of Time as the centerpiece of a course that I teach for a select group of 15 University of Georgia freshman. For balance, the class also studies the novel That Hideous Strength, the third book in the C. S. Lewis space trilogy. My course falls in the "Get to know the professor" category that is becoming popular in large public universities to offset the sense of anonymity that many entering freshmen feel.

An excellent film (1991, director Errol Morris) has been made about A Brief History of Time, and we enjoy the film every year in my freshman seminar. There has even been another good book (A Reader's Companion, Bantam, 1992) made about the film. Hawking has a wonderful sense of humor. He displays it in the foreword of the Reader's Companion, stating "This is The Book of The Film of The Book. I don't know if they are planning a film of the book of the film of the book."

I want to begin our discussion of Stephen Hawking by saying something about his scientific research, without getting bogged down in details. Hawking has made his well-deserved scientific reputation by investigating in great detail one particular set of problems: the singularity and horizons around black holes and at the beginning of time. Now, every writer in this general area is convinced that if you encountered a black hole, it would be the last thing you ever encountered. A black hole is a massive system so centrally condensed that the force of gravity prevents everything within it, including light, from escaping. The reassuring thing is that, despite what our children see on the Saturday morning cartoons, no black hole appears to be in our neighborhood. That is, the closest black hole to planet earth is far more distant than could be traveled in the lifetime of a human being using conventional rockets.

Stephen Hawking's first major scientific work was published with Roger Penrose (a physicist very famous in his own right) and George Ellis (not as famous as Penrose and Hawking, but still very well known), during the period 1968-1970. They demonstrated that every solution to the equations of general relativity guarantees the existence of a singular boundary for space and time in the past. This landmark is now known as the "singularity theorem," and is a tremendously important finding, being about as close as we can get to a mathematical rationalization for the Big Bang Theory. Later, of course, Hawking began to carry out independent research, both by himself and with his own doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. As early as 1973, he began to formulate ideas about the quantum evaporation of black holes, exploding black holes, "Hawking radiation," and so on. Some of Hawking's work is radical, exploratory, and even speculative in nature. However, by any reasonable standard Stephen Hawking is a great scientist. Even if time shows some of his more radical proposals to be incorrect, Hawking will have had a profound impact on the history of science.


It may be that one day the common public will see Hawking as a giant equal to Einstein for his accomplishments and imagination. Some of what Einstein believed to be true has been disproven and very likely this same fate will befall some of Hawking's assertions. This is what happens to pioneers in a scientific field and certainly in this area scientists are still pioneers, strangers in a strange land, when seeking the answers to questions of beginnings and underlying forces in nature.

The scientific centerpiece of A Brief History of Time would appear to fall in the speculative category of his research. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the scientific centerpiece of A Brief History of Time was not considered one of Hawking's most important papers prior to the publication of the book in 1987. I am referring to the "no boundary proposal" that Hawking published in 1984 in work with James Hartle, a physics professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Using a grossly simplified picture of the universe in conjunction with an elegant vacuum fluctuation model, Hartle and Hawking were able to provide a mathematical rationalization for the entire universe popping into existence at the beginning of time. This model has also been called the "universe as a wave function" and the "no beginning point." While such mathematical exercises are highly speculative, they may eventually lead us to a deeper understanding of the creation event. I postpone my analysis of the no boundary proposal for a few pages.

Hawking is certainly the most famous physicist in history who has not won the Nobel Prize. This has puzzled some people. Many people automatically assume that Professor Hawking has already won the Nobel Prize. Yet as of this writing (late 2001) he has not. This is probably because the Swedish Royal Academy demands that an award-winning discovery must be supported by verifiable experimental or observational evidence. Hawking's work to date remains largely unconfirmed. Although the mathematics and concepts of his theories are certainly beautiful and elegant, science waited until 1994 for rock solid evidence for even the existence of black holes. The verification of Hawking radiation or any of his more radical theoretical proposals still seems far off. In this context, we must recall that Albert Einstein was wrong about a number of important things scientific, especially quantum mechanics; yet we recognize him as one of the three great physicists of all time, along with Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell. I should conclude this section by noting that a number of Nobel Prize Committees have shown themselves to be composed of rather savvy people, capable of compromise. So I would not be surprised to see the old gentlemen in Stockholm find a way to award the Nobel Prize in Physics to Stephen Hawking. Perhaps Hawking could share the prize with those responsible for the first observations of black holes.


And God

Those who have not read A Brief History of Time may be surprised to find that the book has a main character. That main character is God. This was the feature of the book that the well known atheist Carl Sagan found a bit distressing. Sagan wrote the preface to the first edition of the book, but was less famous than Hawking by the time of arrival of the tenth anniversary edition, in which Sagan's preface does not appear. God is discussed in A Brief History of Time from near the beginning all the way to the crescendo of the final sentence. So let us try to put Hawking's opinions about God in some sort of a context. The context is that Stephen Hawking seems to have made up his mind about God long before he became a cosmologist.

Not surprisingly, the principal influence in Stephen's early life was his mother, Isobel. Isobel Hawking was a member of the Communist Party in England in the 1930's, and her son has carried some of that intellectual tradition right through his life. Incidentally, Hawking's fame is now such that he felt obligated to endorse one of the candidates in the 2000 United States presidential election. By the time he was 13, Hawking's hero was the brilliant agnostic philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell. At the same age, two of Hawking's friends became Christians as a result of the 1955 Billy Graham London campaign. According to his 1992 biographers (Michael White and John Gribben), Hawking stood apart from these encounters with "a certain amused detachment." There is little in A Brief History of Time that deviates in a significant way from what we know of the religious views of the 13-year-old Stephen Hawking. However, we must note that in public questioning Hawking insists that he is not an atheist. And I am told by eyewitness observers that in recent years Stephen Hawking has appeared "once or twice a month" in an Anglican church with his second wife.

Perhaps the most important event of Stephen Hawking's life occurred on December 31, 1962. He met his future wife of 25 years, Jane Wilde, at a New Year's Eve party. One month later, Hawking was diagnosed with a debilitating disease, ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known in North America as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was given two years to live at the time. That was nearly 40 years ago. I have seen three chemistry professor friends die of this terrible disease. My three friends lasted two, three, and five years, respectively, the last surviving on an iron lung for his last tortuous year. By anyone's estimation, the preservation of Stephen Hawking's life is a medical miracle. And he is a man of great personal courage.

At this point in his life, 1962, Stephen was by all accounts an average-performing graduate student at Cambridge University. I hasten to add that even average doctoral students at Cambridge, still one of the five great universities in the world, can be very good. Let me quote from his biographers, White and Gribbon, on this point:

"However, there is little doubt that Jane Wilde's appearance on the scene was a major turning point in Stephen Hawking's life. The two of them began to see a lot more of one another and a strong relationship developed. It was finding Jane Wilde that enabled him to break out of his depression and regenerate some belief in his life and work. For Hawking, his engagement to Jane was probably the most important thing that ever happened to him. It changed his life, gave him something to live for and made him determined to live. Without the help that Jane gave him, he would almost certainly not have been able to carry on or had the will to do so."

They married in July of 1965, somewhat past the expected date of Stephen Hawking's death. The fact that three children followed is indisputable evidence that Stephen was not dead. Hawking himself said in an interview shortly following the publication of A Brief History of Time that "what really made a difference was that I got engaged to a woman named Jane Wilde. This gave me something to live for." Jane Wilde is an interesting person in her own right. I think she decided early on to pursue an academic discipline as far as possible from her husband. She has a doctorate in Medieval Portuguese Literature!

Jane Hawking is a Christian. She made the statement in 1986, "Without my faith in God, I wouldn't have been able to live in this situation (namely, the deteriorating health of her husband, with no obvious income but that of a Cambridge don to live on). I would not have been able to marry Stephen in the first place because I wouldn't have had the optimism to carry me through, and I wouldn't have been able to carry on with it."

The reason the book has sold more than 10 million copies, i.e., the reason for Hawking's success as a popularizer of science, is that he addresses the problems of meaning and purpose that concern all thinking people. The book overlaps with Christian belief and it does so deliberately, but graciously and without rancor. It is an important book that needs to be treated with respect and attention. There is no reason to agree with everything put forth in A Brief History of Time and you will see that I have a couple of areas of disagreement. It has been argued that this is the most widely unread book in the history of literature. I first began to prepare this material for a lecture in December 1992, because I was asked by a friend (John Mason) in Australia to come and speak on the subject. John wrote to me, "A great many people in Sydney have purchased this book. Some claim to have read it." So I encourage you to join the students in my University of Georgia class and become one of those who have actually read A Brief History of Time.

Stephen Hawking has made some eminently sensible statements on the relationship between science and Christianity. For example, "It is difficult to discuss the beginning of the universe without mentioning the concept of God. My work on the origin of the universe is on the borderline between science and religion, but I try to stay on the scientific side of the border. It is quite possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described by scientific laws." When asked by a reporter whether he believed that science and Christianity were competing world views, Hawking replied cleverly "Then Newton would not have discovered the law of gravity." Dr. Hawking is well aware that Newton had strong religious convictions.

A Brief History of Time makes wonderfully ambiguous statements such as, "Even if there is only one possible unified theory (here he is alluding to the envisioned unification of our understandings of quantum mechanics and gravity), it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?" In a similar vein Hawking asks "Why does the universe go to the bother of existing?" Although Hawking does not attempt to answer these two critical questions, they make wonderful discussion topics for university students, and I have enjoyed using them for this purpose.

Hawking pokes fun at Albert Einstein for not believing in quantum mechanics. When asked why he didn't believe in quantum mechanics, Einstein would sometimes say things like "God doesn't play dice with the universe." On one such occasion, Niels Bohr is said to have responded "Albert, stop telling God what He can do." Hawking's adroit response to Einstein is that "God not only plays dice. He sometimes throws them where they can't be seen." Of course, I like Hawking's response very much, having devoted my professional career to the study of molecular quantum mechanics.

For me (and for Hawking's now distinguished student Don Page; more on Professor Page later) the most precious jewel in A Brief History of Time reflects Hawking's interest in the writing's of Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.). Hawking states "The idea that God might want to change His mind is an example of the fallacy, pointed out St. Augustine, of imagining God as a being existing in time. Time is a property only of the universe that God created. Presumably, God knew what He intended when He set it up."

The first time I read A Brief History of Time, admittedly not critically, for the first 100 pages or so I thought, "This is a great book; Hawking is building a splendid case for creation by an intelligent being." But things then begin to change and this magnificent cosmological epic becomes adulterated by poor philosophy and theology. For example, Hawking writes on page 122 of the first edition, "These laws (of physics) may have originally been decreed by God, but it appears that He has since left the universe to evolve according to them and does not now intervene in it". The grounds on which Hawking claims "it appears" are unstated, and a straw God is set up that is certainly not the God who is revealed in time and space and history. What follows is a curious mixture of deism and the ubiquitous "god of the gaps." Stephen Hawking thus appears uncertain (agnostic) of his belief in a god of his own creation.

Now, lest any reader be uncertain, let me emphasize that Hawking strenuously denies charges that he is an atheist. When he is accused of atheism, he is affronted and says that such assertions are not true. For example, Hawking has stated "I thought I had left the question of the existence of a Supreme Being completely open. . . It would be perfectly consistent with all we know to say that there was a Being who was responsible for all the laws of physics." Stephen Hawking is probably an agnostic or a deist (a believer in an impersonal god) or something in between these two positions, his recent church attendance notwithstanding. He is certainly not an atheist and sometimes does not even appear very sympathetic to atheism.

One of the frequently quoted statements in A Brief History of Time is, "So long as the universe had a beginning, we would suppose it had a creator (the cosmological argument). But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?" Hawking's most famous statement is contained in the last paragraph of A Brief History of Time. Perhaps attempting to balance the quotation just cited, Hawking writes "However, if we do discover a complete theory. . . . . then we would know the mind of God." As a person who has dedicated his professional life to science, I am personally sympathetic to this statement. John Calvin was correct is stating that "All truth is God's truth." But I think Professor Hawking is claiming too much here. I would modify his statement to say that if we had a unified, complete theory of physics, we would know much more about the mind of God. To claim to know God comprehensively is beyond the capability of any human being.


Hawking, a brilliant man by all accounts, and not a Christian, nevertheless says, "It would be perfectly consistent with all we know to say that there was a Being who was responsible for all the laws of physics." It appears that his lifetime of study has shown him glimpses of a God he cannot quite define, yet must acknowledge because of those very studies. That he exemplifies courage is beyond question. That he is intellectually honest enough to concede that he see God, in some form, within the context of his scientific findings is another point in his favor. The truly great ones want the truth. I do hope he finds it, like his life's companion, before he passes from this lifetime.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Loboinok shares a Islam versus the Pope post

Thanks to Lobo for sending this, it deserves publication!

"By George Friedman

On Sept. 12, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture on "Faith, Reason and the University" at the University of Regensburg. In his discussion (full text available on the Vatican Web site) the pope appeared to be trying to define a course between dogmatic faith and cultural relativism -- making his personal contribution to the old debate about faith and reason. In the course of the lecture, he made reference to a "part of the dialogue carried on -- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara -- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both."

Benedict went on to say -- and it is important to read a long passage to understand his point -- that:

"In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that Sura 2,256 reads: 'There is no compulsion in religion.' According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Quran, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the 'Book' and the 'infidels,' he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.' The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God,' he says, 'is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death ...'

"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: 'For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent.'"

The reaction of the Muslim world -- outrage -- came swift and sharp over the passage citing Manuel II: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Obviously, this passage is a quote from a previous text -- but equally obviously, the pope was making a critical point that has little to do with this passage.

The essence of this passage is about forced conversion. It begins by pointing out that Mohammed spoke of faith without compulsion when he lacked political power, but that when he became strong, his perspective changed. Benedict goes on to make the argument that violent conversion -- from the standpoint of a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, and therefore shaped by the priority of reason -- is unacceptable. For someone who believes that God is absolutely transcendent and beyond reason, the argument goes, it is acceptable.

Clearly, Benedict knows that Christians also practiced forced conversion in their history. He also knows that the Aristotelian tendency is not unique to Christianity. In fact, that same tendency exists in the Muslim tradition, through thinkers such as al-Farabi or Avicenna. These stand in relation to Islam as Thomas Aquinas does to Christianity or Maimonides to Judaism. And all three religions struggle not only with the problem of God versus science, but with the more complex and interesting tripolar relationship of religion as revelation, reason and dogmatism. There is always that scriptural scholar, the philosopher troubled by faith and the local clergyman who claims to speak for God personally.

Benedict's thoughtful discussion of this problem needs to be considered. Also to be considered is why the pope chose to throw a hand grenade into a powder keg, and why he chose to do it at this moment in history. The other discussion might well be more worthy of the ages, but this question -- what did Benedict do, and why did he do it -- is of more immediate concern, for he could have no doubt what the response, in today's politically charged environment, was going to be.

A Deliberate Move

Let's begin with the obvious: Benedict's words were purposely chosen. The quotation of Manuel II was not a one-liner, accidentally blurted out. The pope was giving a prepared lecture that he may have written himself -- and if it was written for him, it was one that he carefully read. Moreover, each of the pope's public utterances are thoughtfully reviewed by his staff, and there is no question that anyone who read this speech before it was delivered would recognize the explosive nature of discussing anything about Islam in the current climate. There is not one war going on in the world today, but a series of wars, some of them placing Catholics at risk.

It is true that Benedict was making reference to an obscure text, but that makes the remark all the more striking; even the pope had to work hard to come up with this dialogue. There are many other fine examples of the problem of reason and faith that he could have drawn from that did not involve Muslims, let alone one involving such an incendiary quote. But he chose this citation and, contrary to some media reports, it was not a short passage in the speech. It was about 15 percent of the full text and was the entry point to the rest of the lecture. Thus, this was a deliberate choice, not a slip of the tongue.

As a deliberate choice, the effect of these remarks could be anticipated. Even apart from the particular phrase, the text of the speech is a criticism of the practice of conversion by violence, with a particular emphasis on Islam. Clearly, the pope intended to make the point that Islam is currently engaged in violence on behalf of religion, and that it is driven by a view of God that engenders such belief. Given Muslims' protests (including some violent reactions) over cartoons that were printed in a Danish newspaper, the pope and his advisers certainly must have been aware that the Muslim world would go ballistic over this. Benedict said what he said intentionally, and he was aware of the consequences. Subsequently, he has not apologized for what he said -- only for any offense he might have caused. He has not retracted his statement.

So, why this, and why now?

Political Readings

Consider the fact that the pope is not only a scholar but a politician -- and a good one, or he wouldn't have become the pope. He is not only a head of state, but the head of a global church with a billion members. The church is no stranger to geopolitics. Muslims claim that they brought down communism in Afghanistan. That may be true, but there certainly is something to be said also for the efforts of the Catholic Church, which helped to undermine the communism in Poland and to break the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe. Popes know how to play power politics.

Thus, there are at least two ways to view Benedict's speech politically.

One view derives from the fact that the pope is watching the U.S.-jihadist war. He can see it is going badly for the United States in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He witnessed the recent success of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas' political victory among the Palestinians. Islamists may not have the fundamental strength to threaten the West at this point, but they are certainly on a roll. Also, it should be remembered that Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, was clearly not happy about the U.S. decision to invade Iraq, but it does not follow that his successor is eager to see a U.S. defeat there.

The statement that Benedict made certainly did not hurt U.S. President George W. Bush in American politics. Bush has been trying to portray the war against Islamist militants as a clash of civilizations, one that will last for generations and will determine the future of mankind. Benedict, whether he accepts Bush's view or not, offered an intellectual foundation for Bush's position. He drew a sharp distinction between Islam and Christianity and then tied Christianity to rationality -- a move to overcome the tension between religion and science in the West. But he did not include Islam in that matrix. Given that there is a war on and that the pope recognizes Bush is on the defensive, not only in the war but also in domestic American politics, Benedict very likely weighed the impact of his words on the scale of war and U.S. politics. What he said certainly could be read as words of comfort for Bush. We cannot read Benedict's mind on this, of course, but he seemed to provide some backing for Bush's position.

It is not entirely clear that Pope Benedict intended an intellectual intervention in the war. The church obviously did not support the invasion of Iraq, having criticized it at the time. On the other hand, it would not be in the church's interests to see the United States simply routed. The Catholic Church has substantial membership throughout the region, and a wave of Islamist self-confidence could put those members and the church at risk. From the Vatican's perspective, the ideal outcome of the war would be for the United States to succeed -- or at least not fail -- but for the church to remain free to criticize Washington's policies and to serve as conciliator and peacemaker. Given the events of the past months, Benedict may have felt the need for a relatively gentle intervention -- in a way that warned the Muslim world that the church's willingness to endure vilification as a Crusader has its limits, and that he is prepared, at least rhetorically, to strike back. Again, we cannot read his mind, but neither can we believe that he was oblivious to events in the region and that, in making his remarks, he was simply engaged in an academic exercise.

This perspective would explain the timing of the pope's statement, but the general thrust of his remarks has more to do with Europe.

There is an intensifying tension in Europe over the powerful wave of Muslim immigration. Frictions are high on both sides. Europeans fear that the Muslim immigrants will overwhelm their native culture or form an unassimilated and destabilizing mass. Muslims feel unwelcome, and some extreme groups have threatened to work for the conversion of Europe. In general, the Vatican's position has ranged from quiet to calls for tolerance. As a result, the Vatican was becoming increasingly estranged from the church body -- particularly working- and middle-class Catholics -- and its fears.

As has been established, the pope knew that his remarks at Regensburg would come under heavy criticism from Muslims. He also knew that this criticism would continue despite any gestures of contrition. Thus, with his remarks, he moved toward closer alignment with those who are uneasy about Europe's Muslim community -- without adopting their own, more extreme, sentiments. That move increases his political strength among these groups and could cause them to rally around the church. At the same time, the pope has not locked himself into any particular position. And he has delivered his own warning to Europe's Muslims about the limits of tolerance.

It is obvious that Benedict delivered a well-thought-out statement. It is also obvious that the Vatican had no illusions as to how the Muslim world would respond. The statement contained a verbal blast, crafted in a way that allowed Benedict to maintain plausible deniability. Indeed, the pope already has taken the exit, noting that these were not his thoughts but those of another scholar. The pope and his staff were certainly aware that this would make no difference in the grand scheme of things, save for giving Benedict the means for distancing himself from the statement when the inevitable backlash occurred. Indeed, the anger in the Muslim world remained intense, and there also have been emerging pockets of anger among Catholics over the Muslim world's reaction to the pope, considering the history of Islamic attacks against Christianity. Because he reads the newspapers -- not to mention the fact that the Vatican maintains a highly capable intelligence service of its own -- Benedict also had to have known how the war was going, and that his statement likely would aid Bush politically, at least indirectly. Finally, he would be aware of the political dynamics in Europe and that the statement would strengthen his position with the church's base there.

The question is how far Benedict is going to go with this. His predecessor took on the Soviet Union and then, after the collapse of communism, started sniping at the United States over its materialism and foreign policy. Benedict may have decided that the time has come to throw the weight of the church against radical Islamists. In fact, there is a logic here: If the Muslims reject Benedict's statement, they have to acknowledge the rationalist aspects of Islam. The burden is on the Ummah to lift the religion out of the hands of radicals and extremist scholars by demonstrating that Muslims can adhere to reason.

From an intellectual and political standpoint, therefore, Benedict's statement was an elegant move. He has strengthened his political base and perhaps legitimized a stronger response to anti-Catholic rhetoric in the Muslim world. And he has done it with superb misdirection. His options are open: He now can move away from the statement and let nature take its course, repudiate it and challenge Muslim leaders to do the same with regard to anti-Catholic statements or extend and expand the criticism of Islam that was implicit in the dialogue.

The pope has thrown a hand grenade and is now observing the response. We are assuming that he knew what he was doing; in fact, we find it impossible to imagine that he did not. He is too careful not to have known. Therefore, he must have anticipated the response and planned his partial retreat.

It will be interesting to see if he has a next move. The answer to that may be something he doesn't know himself yet."
*******

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Terrorists - Hang 'em from the yardarm!

Thanks to my friend Oriolebird (despite his affinity for the Detroit Pistons) for passing on this information, and also to Quizlaw for identifying Islamofascists as modern day pirates.

The Dread Pirate Bin Laden

How thinking of terrorists as pirates can help win the war on terror.

By Douglas R. Burgess Jr.

INTERNATIONAL LAW LACKS A DEFINITION FOR TERRORISM as a crime. According to Secretary General Kofi Annan, this lack has hampered "the moral authority of the United Nations and its strength in condemning" the scourge.

But attempts to provide a definition have failed because of terrorists' strangely hybrid status in the law. They are neither ordinary criminals nor recognized state actors, so there is almost no international or domestic law dealing with them. This gives an out to countries that harbor terrorists and declare them "freedom fighters." It also lets the United States flout its own constitutional safeguards by holding suspects captive indefinitely at Guantánamo Bay. The overall situation is, in a word, anarchic.

This chaotic state is reflected in, and caused by, the tortuous machinations of the U.N. in defining terrorism. Over 40 years of debate have produced a plethora of conventions proscribing acts ranging from hijacking to financing terrorist organizations. But the U.N. remains deadlocked on what a terrorist is. As a result, terrorists and countries like the United States pursue one another across the globe with virtually no rules governing their actions.


The full article covers this subject in great detail with plenty of historical anecdotal information for flavoring. Here are a couple of important excerpts:

What is needed now is a framework for an international crime of terrorism. The framework should be incorporated into the U.N. Convention on Terrorism and should call for including the crime in domestic criminal law and perhaps the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. This framework must recognize the unique threat that terrorists pose to nation-states, yet not grant them the legitimacy accorded to belligerent states. It must provide the foundation for a law that criminalizes not only terrorist acts but membership in a terrorist organization. It must define methods of punishment.

Coming up with such a framework would perhaps seem impossible, except that one already exists. Dusty and anachronistic, perhaps, but viable all the same. More than 2,000 years ago, Marcus Tullius Cicero defined pirates in Roman law as hostis humani generis, "enemies of the human race." From that day until now, pirates have held a unique status in the law as international criminals subject to universal jurisdiction—meaning that they may be captured wherever they are found, by any person who finds them. The ongoing war against pirates is the only known example of state vs. nonstate conflict until the advent of the war on terror, and its history is long and notable. More important, there are enormous potential benefits of applying this legal definition to contemporary terrorism.


Piracy became a method of warfare in the 16th through the 19th centuries as regents like Queen Elizabeth gave sea captains/brigands "letters of marque" (later known as privateering, or piracy, commissions) to harrass enemy shipping and pirate their vessels and outposts with the authority of the Crown.
Burress gets to an important point as he reminds readers of the Declaration of Paris in 1856, signed by England, France, Spain, and most other European nations, which abolished the use of piracy for state purposes. Piracy became and remained beyond the pale of legitimate state behavior.

IF THIS CHRONOLOGY SEEMS FAMILIAR, IT SHOULD. The rise and fall of state-sponsored piracy bears chilling similarity to current state-sponsored terrorism. Many nations, including Libya, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, have sponsored terrorist organizations to wage war against the United States or other Western powers. In each case, the motivations have been virtually identical to those of Elizabeth: harass the enemy, deplete its resources, terrify its citizens, frustrate its government, and remain above the fray. The United States is credited with manufacturing its own enemy by training, funding, and outfitting terrorist groups in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Central America during the cold war.

But the important lesson for us is not merely that history repeats itself. Looking at the past provides a parallel to our current dilemma but also a solution. The Declaration of Paris is, on the one hand, a recognition of shared guilt. On the other, it represents the first articulation since the Roman era of piracy as a crime in and of itself. The pirate, by this definition, exists like a malevolent satellite to the law of nations. "Considering . . . that the uncertainty of the law and of the duties in such a matter [as piracy] gives rise to differences of opinion between neutrals and belligerents which may occasion serious difficulties, and even conflicts," the declaration stated, the signing parties "have adopted the following solemn declaration: Privateering is and remains abolished."...


I'll skip a good part of the article which deals with both the history of piracy and the technicalities of bringing terrorist acts under the same general umbrella and bring us to the conclusion of Burress' fine article:

TO UNDERSTAND THE POTENTIAL OF DEFINING TERRORISM as a species of piracy, consider the words of the 16th-century jurist Alberico Gentili's De jure belli: "Pirates are common enemies, and they are attacked with impunity by all, because they are without the pale of the law. They are scorners of the law of nations; hence they find no protection in that law." Gentili, and many people who came after him, recognized piracy as a threat, not merely to the state but to the idea of statehood itself. All states were equally obligated to stamp out this menace, whether or not they had been a victim of piracy. This was codified explicitly in the 1856 Declaration of Paris, and it has been reiterated as a guiding principle of piracy law ever since. Ironically, it is the very effectiveness of this criminalization that has marginalized piracy and made it seem an arcane and almost romantic offense. Pirates no longer terrorize the seas because a concerted effort among the European states in the 19th century almost eradicated them. It is just such a concerted effort that all states must now undertake against terrorists, until the crime of terrorism becomes as remote and obsolete as piracy.

But we are still very far from such recognition for the present war on terror. President Bush and others persist in depicting this new form of state vs. nonstate warfare in traditional terms, as with the president's declaration of June 2, 2004, that "like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless surprise attack on the United States." He went on: "We will not forget that treachery and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy." What constitutes ultimate victory against an enemy that lacks territorial boundaries and governmental structures, in a war without fields of battle or codes of conduct? We can't capture the enemy's capital and hoist our flag in triumph. The possibility of perpetual embattlement looms before us.

If the war on terror becomes akin to war against the pirates, however, the situation would change. First, the crime of terrorism would be defined and proscribed internationally, and terrorists would be properly understood as enemies of all states. This legal status carries significant advantages, chief among them the possibility of universal jurisdiction. Terrorists, as hostis humani generis, could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. Pirates are currently the only form of criminals subject to this special jurisdiction.

Second, this definition would deter states from harboring terrorists on the grounds that they are "freedom fighters" by providing an objective distinction in law between legitimate insurgency and outright terrorism. This same objective definition could, conversely, also deter states from cracking down on political dissidents as "terrorists," as both Russia and China have done against their dissidents.

Recall the U.N. definition of piracy as acts of "depredation [committed] for private ends." Just as international piracy is viewed as transcending domestic criminal law, so too must the crime of international terrorism be defined as distinct from domestic homicide or, alternately, revolutionary activities. If a group directs its attacks on military or civilian targets within its own state, it may still fall within domestic criminal law. Yet once it directs those attacks on property or civilians belonging to another state, it exceeds both domestic law and the traditional right of self-determination, and becomes akin to a pirate band.

Third, and perhaps most important, nations that now balk at assisting the United States in the war on terror might have fewer reservations if terrorism were defined as an international crime that could be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court.

For now, these possibilities remain distant. But there are immediate benefits to pointing out that terrorism has a precedent in piracy. In the short term, it is a tool to cut the Gordian knot of definition that has hampered antiterrorist legislation for 40 years. In the long term, and far more important, it provides the parameters by which to understand this current and intense conflict and the means within which it may one day be resolved. That resolution will begin with the recognition among nations that terrorism is a threat to all states and to all persons, the same recognition given to piracy in 1856. Terrorists, like pirates, must be given their proper status in law: hostis humani generis, enemies of the human race.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

2006-7 Fantasy NBA Basketball Draft

Now for something entirely different to take a break from the Bang of Big...

Blogging the Deep, Deep Draft! Part one, rounds 1-4.

I was invited to join a group of fantasy basketball veterans to play in a large H2H league. Now, when I say large, I mean sixteen teams. With fourteen man rosters, doing the math means a two-hundred-and-twenty-four–man draft! Now, thirty NBA teams times five starters is one-hundred-and-fifty players that start, including at least one Bruce Bowen. Obviously one needs to know whether Rasual Butler will be worth much of anything this year when drafting that deep. I accept the invitation, with players from both Rotokingdom and Fantasy Kings sites participating.

The fun begins when I am randomly selected to be the sixteenth, and last, drafter. So I am not going to be getting LeBron or The Matrix. I resign myself to starting behind the eight-ball. But there is a bright side in that, as I tell myself, “Dude, you’re getting two of the seventeen best players in the game!” Su-u-u-u-u-u-re.

We agree on standard cats and rosters:

Standard 9 category, Head to Head - FG%, FT%, 3PTM, PTS, REB, AST, ST, BLK, TO

Standard positions - PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, C, Util, Util, BN, BN, BN, BN

Now, one of the first things I do is check out the Yahoo player ‘cards’ to determine who has what eligibility. No use drafting Rasheed Wallace as a center if Yahoo has him listed as a PF...or should I say it is a gamble to draft ‘Sheed and expect him to get center eligibility. I also wanted to see what cool designation they were going to give to Boris Diaw, but Yahoo simply lists him as a ‘Forward-Center’ which is rather boring of them.

After we quibble over whether we want turnovers as a category or not (we do) and whether there will be time limits on the draft (yes, 24 hours) we get down to it:

1.01 SirDunkAlot - LeBron James
1.02 dcdoorknob - Shawn Marion
1.03 Baseballar13 (From Dutch) - Kevin Garnett
1.04 bangalack89 (From UCLAccord) - Kobe Bryant
1.05 Ucaimaman - Dirk Nowitzki
1.06 Goubs - Gilbert Arenas
1.07 Dutch (From baseballar13) - Dwayne Wade

(This seems too low for D Wade...but all of these guys are primo..)

1.08 LdubLakerPrideFKUnit - Elton Brand
1.09 SantaKlaus02002 - Steve Nash

(I wonder if Nash, like Samson, loses his strength along with his hair?)

1.10 DAtaris17 - Chris Bosh
1.11 UCLAccord (From bangalack89) - Paul Pierce
1.12 KB89 - Ray Allen
1.13 Mikl - Andrei Kirilenko
1.14 CelticsFan3519 - Yao Ming
1.15 Supa-FK-Unit - Allen Iverson

People are already making trades! In any event, things begin in a normal manner and none of the early picks surprise me. As a group we drafted the top eight players with the top eight picks, so we must know what we are doing. I think that after those top eight the opinions become a bit mixed concerning who to take. But there are no mistakes in the first round as far as I see it.

As it gets close to my turn, I decide that my first choice will be a point guard, either Iverson or Chris Paul. When Supa goes with Iverson, then I select Paul, who as the NBA Rookie of the Year scored well, with good FT% and assists and a ton of steals. I also considered how Dwyane Wade increased his scoring by 50% and boosted his numbers generally across the board in his second season in the league. LeBron saw his numbers increase dramatically in his second season. In fact, the truly outstanding rookie usually makes a big leap in production in his second season, if injuries are not a factor. Paul was a good bet to make people wish they had drafted him somewhere between, say, Brand and Ming. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

1.16 radar - Chris Paul
2nd Round
2.01 radar - Jermaine O'Neal


My next pick was going to be for Pau Gasol. Keep in mind this draft began before Pau’s injury, so I saw him as an obvious choice. I didn’t want to be dragged down by Tim Duncan’s terrible FT% this year and was afraid to invest a top pick in Amare, who had yet to prove he was recovered from microfracture knee surgery. So it was between O’Neal and Gasol and possibly Okur. For some reason, mainly because I figure JON is going to block more shots, I take him instead of Gasol (and immediately hope that Okur will be available in the third round)! This turns out to be incredibly bad luck for KB89. Then again, it was me who last year drafted Amare in half of his redraft leagues! Later we learn that Gasol will miss four months after surgery but right now none of us know this, so KB made a good choice at the time.

Anyway, it is early but I can see that I am doing okay on points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. I may be punting FG% and not sure about FT% and 3PTM. I like to figure out early in a H2H draft where my strengths are and draft accordingly, but within reason. I am not going to jump thirty places ahead to get a shot-blocking center! But I very well might jump, say, three....The draft continues:

2.02 Supa-FK-Unit - Vince Carter
2.03 KB89 (From CelticsFan3519) - Pau Gasol
2.04 Mikl - Tim Duncan

(Mikl probably will decide to punt FT% now)

2.05 CelticsFan3519 (From KB89) - Jason Kidd
2.06 UCLAccord (From bangalack89) - Joe Johnson
2.07 DAtaris17 - Michael Redd
2.08 SantaKlaus02002 - Chauncy Billups
2.09 Goubs (From LdubLakerPrideFKUnit) - Tracy McGrady
2.10 Dutch (From baseballar13) - Amare Stoudemire

(The last two picks are big injury risks with high upsides. Gutsy to draft them this high!)

2.11 LdubLakerPrideFKUnit (From Goubs) - Rashard Lewis
2.12 Ucaimaman - Gerald Wallace
2.13 bangalack89 (From UCLAccord) - Jason Richardson
2.14 baseballar13 (From Dutch) - Dwight Howard
2.15 dcdoorknob - Rasheed Wallace
2.16 SirDunkAlot - Brad Miller
3rd Round
3.01 SirDunkAlot - Mike Bibby

(I am thinking maybe SirDunk is a Sacramento fan?)

3.02 dcdoorknob - Ben Wallace
3.03 Dutch - Josh Smith

(Josh was a 15 point, 3 block, 1 steal and 8 boards per game monster after the All-Star game last year. Is he AK47 part 2? Yet Yahoo lists him as a backup to Childress!!!)

3.04 UCLAccord - Ron Artest
3.05 Ucaimaman - Lamar Odom
3.06 LdubLakerPrideFKUnit (From Goubs) - Antawn Jamison
3.07 baseballar13 - Richard Jefferson
3.08 Goubs (From LdubLakerPrideFKUnit) - Peja Stojakovic
3.09 SantaKlaus02002 - Marcus Camby

(Looks like Santa is going for good FT% now, taking Nash, Billups and now Camby.)

3.10 DAtaris17 - Carmelo Anthony
3.11 bangalack89 - Boris Diaw

(Oh-oh...I wanted Boris this round. Only one more center-eligible I really want now.)

3.12 CelticsFan3519 (From KB89) - David West
3.13 Mikl - Carlos Boozer

(Now I am getting pumped! They took Boozer before Okur!)

3.14 KB89 (From CelticsFan3519) - Raymond Felton
3.15 Supa-FK-Unit - Caron Butler

I would have liked to have Butler here, so I will go guard again. Boozer and Felton are gone but I preferred one center and one guard above them and now I can take them here.

3.16 radar - Kirk Hinrich
4th Round
4.01 radar - Mehmet Okur


Drafting those guys, I am still doing good for points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. These are my categories I intend to consistently win. Okur, like JON, is a FC so he can play center, forward and power forward. Paul is a PG but Hinrich is just a G, which means he plays PG, SG and just plain G positions. I like having a bit of flexibility for scheduling and injury purposes. Also, I have two top-rated centers already and my point guards are definitely covered. I am still looking pretty good for FT% and 3PTM as additional strong categories....and I am now absolutely for sure punting FG% and TO. Did I mention that I am a Chicago Bulls fan? Drafting Captain Kirk guarantees at least a bit of Bulls flavor to my team.

You ask, what is punting in basketball, I thought that was a football term? Punting is when you deliberately decide to ignore a category and expect to usually lose it. If I decide that I am punting FT%, then I am not afraid to pick up Shaq because he will help me win in other areas and I am ignoring FT%. In H2H, it would be unwise to pick up Nowitzki and Nash, with their outstanding FT shooting, and then bring Shaq on board to ruin your category anyway. In my case, I am punting FG% and TO so I don’t worry about that phase of my potential draft pick’s game. I’ll still take a guy with good FG% if he helps me in my target categories, though. You don’t get points for being the worst in a category...Otherwise Shaq would be a first round draft pick!

Why punt at all? Because you can’t win every category, so punting is the simply the flip side of trying to score in your target categories. Again, I am not looking to find the worst FG% shooters, I am looking for guys who score, rebound, get assists, steal and blocks. I just don’t care about FG%. Make sense?

Here is the rest of the fourth round:

4.02 Baseballar13 (From Supa-FK-Unit) - Stephon Marbury
4.03 CelticsFan3519 - Jason Terry (traded to dcdoorknob)
4.04 Mikl - Shane Battier
4.05 UCLAccord (From KB89) - Zydrunas Ilgauskas
4.06 KB89 (From UCLAccord which was from bangalack89) - Chris Kaman

(KB covers for his Gasol loss here a bit, with an underrated center in Kaman.)

4.07 DAtaris17 - Jameer Nelson
4.08 SantaKlaus02002 - Andre Iguodala
4.09 LdubLakerPrideFKUnit - Mike James
4.10 Supa-FK-Unit (From baseballar13) - Morris Peterson
4.11 Dutch (From Goubs) - Richard Hamilton
4.12 Ucaimaman - Tony Parker
4.13 bangalack89 (From UCLAccord) - Baron Davis
4.14 Goubs (From Dutch) - Luke Ridnour
4.15 CelticsFan3519 (From dcdoorknob) - Chris Webber
4.16 SirDunkAlot - Andre Miller

We have reached the Webber Line in round four – Webber being the player who is so much better in fantasy than he is in real life, so you want to draft him, but you never know when he is going to go down and never get up. The next line to cross is the Shaq Line, that place where Shaq’s other great stats finally overcome your aversion to his free throwing miseries and you take him. Everyone knows that Shaq is a great player in real life, much, much, much better than Webber. Yet in fantasy Webber goes first...

Not counting my picks, what do I think are the best value picks in rounds 1-4?

Round 1 – This is tough, all picks were completely understandable, which means no one screwed up. I will give it up to dcdoorknob for wisely taking the Matrix in the #2 slot, because it is tempting to go KG there and his numbers are beginning to drop just a hair.

Round 2 – Tough again. Maybe baseballar with Dwight Howard at 2:14. I think the guy is ready to be a stud this season!

Round 3 - Josh Smith at 3.03 by Dutch. Dutch seems to be reaching, but in fact Josh really turned it on near the end of last season and so Dutch is probably getting the equivalent of Kirilenko with fewer injury risks.

Round 4 – KB89 saves the day by taking Kaman, who is maybe the last really top-notch fantasy center available. Kaman just keeps getting better and really has no glaring weaknesses, unless you demand three-pointers from your center...and I got the last of those guys when I took Okur. He has to draft with the injury to Pau in mind going forward. He’ll get Gasol back after Christmas sometime and be so much stronger then but it was wise to go center here and Kaman was the best choice.

My best pick – Getting Paul in the first round. I didn’t think he would drop so far and was glad to get him.

My worst pick – Maybe I reached on JON at the top of round 2. I figured getting rid of Artest/Peja and adding his old Buddy Baby Al makes him both the focus of the offense, the acknowledged leader of the team and happy. Does that translate into production? Maybe pure dumb luck saved me from taking Pau but I may be sorry I didn’t take VC here. Time will tell.

Sixty-four players drafted, one-hundred and sixty left to go!